Outdoor air pollution is a topic that gets a lot of attention these days. Much less widely known, however, is that indoor air pollution is not only common but can have an even worse effect on you than the outside air ever could.
A variety of different factors can cause indoor air pollution. The pollutants can include anything from mold to pet dander to fumes from appliances, and when all of these are concentrated in such a small space and blown into every room by the HVAC system, the negative effects they can spark are greatly intensified.
What kinds of negative effects? According to one medical director in New York, poor indoor air quality can trigger coughing, sore throat, itchy eyes, or even chronic asthma– especially in children and the elderly.
Fortunately, while this may all sound like bad news, there’s a definite plus side: the problem of poor indoor air quality is fixable. Here are the top eight steps you can take to increase the quality of the air in your home:
Use Trickle Ventilation: A trickle vent is a small opening in a window designed to allow the ventilation of fresh air while also keeping out any pollutants from outside. Opening the window may just make things worse as more pollutants are blown in to your home, but with a trickle vent, you can help to ensure that the pollutants that are outside stay outside.
Use a HEPA Filter: HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air, and just as it says, the job of a HEPA filter is to remove as many particles from the air as possible. In fact, the United States Department of Energy has strict standards for these filters and they need to be able to remove 99.97% of 0.3 micrometer particles in the air in order to qualify as HEPA. A HEPA filter can work in conjunction with your air conditioner, or you can get a separate filtration system.
Use an Air Conditioner: Speaking of air conditioners, they help to remove moisture, and thus many pollutants, from the air. Running an air conditioner in the summer is one of the easiest ways to deal with poor indoor air quality.
Be Careful When You Cook: The kitchen stove can produce nitrogen dioxide, a highly irritating gas. So if you have a gas stove, be sure to turn on the fan hood or leave a window opened while you cook to allow this gas to escape.
Get Rid of Mold: Mold spores are a common allergen and can quickly and easily spread through the house. Any areas of dampness or leaking needs to be fixed in order to address this issue. If mold is already present, wear gloves and a mask while you clean it up in order to avoid breathing in the spores. In serious cases, it is best to enlist the help of a professional.
Deal with Pet Dander: An unfortunate side effect of living with pets is that their dander can contribute to poor indoor air quality. Regularly bathing and brushing your pet can combat this to some extent, and there are special vacuums designed to pick up dander as well. If your pets are triggering your allergies, then consider keeping them out of your bedroom.
Deal with Dust Mites: As the most common cause of dust allergies, dust mites are a fact of life. You may not be able to eradicate them completely, but there are ways to minimize their effects as much as possible. First of all, keep the humidity below about 35%– dust mites thrive in humidity. Secondly, wash your sheets, blankets, and pillowcases often on your washer’s highest temperature setting.
Secondhand Smoke: This one is obvious: tobacco particles are a huge irritant which seriously increases chances for asthma and lung cancer even in those who are not doing the smoking themselves. Avoid smoking in your home, and tell visitors that they need to do it outside.
It’s truly amazing how much of a difference following just a few simple steps can make when it comes to improving the air quality in your home. So if wheezing or headaches are a problem for you, give some of these tips a try and feel the difference they can make. Your family will love the cleaner air– and so will you.